The Quality of Your Home Country’s Specialty Dishes as Prepared Abroad
I have written before about our Costa Rica-Brazil relationship. I would like to add to that, to make a case for the importance of the popular culture that exists here in New York City. Namely, the dishes you get at some of your favorite restaurants (try Cafe Rio, for instance, or Birrificio Alves at NoMad). These dishes are far more authentic than the stereotypical American cuisine.
You probably see the pictures on the menus, perhaps as part of the consumer-facing side of the various catering software features: slices of pineapple as big as our heads; whole fried whole fish, with the head on. These are not always affordable in our restaurant scene, so we go to these places for brunch or dinner because we know that when we order it, we’ll be served the same food as in other countries.
I am not referring to the kind of regional cuisine one might get in a “Mediterranean” country, for instance, where there are restaurants that specialize in the food of a given area. Here, you can get some good modern Greek food as well. But I have to say, there is nothing like the favorite foods in the Middle East. It’s often the same thing with a sushi lunch or a spanakopita sandwich in Manhattan or Boston. It tends to be more authentic than many of the other things on the menu.
I am talking about food that is truly served in the native tongue of its maker. In Costa Rica, we have several restaurants like Birrificio Alves. You will likely not find any Mediterranean fare there. It would be hard to find any Mexican dish, or even Italian or French. So what do they do for fun? They make sushi.
Cafes like Cafe Rio and Cafe Punta Cana specialize in Costa Rican food. They are everywhere in Manhattan, and most people who live here go to them once or twice a week. Brazilians don’t seem to get why the Americans are looking for that kind of food.
A lot of their family traditions get lost when they move to the U.S. I understand that. It is part of the tragedy of the immigration process. The food gets lost, and so do those traditions.
Birrificio Alves is known for its churrasco steak. It has been around for a long time; it is owned by Brazilians, and its menu has a lot of tchotchke and kitsch to fit the Brazilian lifestyle. But the food is legit.
Lunch at Birrificio Alves (with a glass of wine) costs about $50, and dinner is $150. My girlfriend and I like to order from the appetizer menu; it’s a nice way to sample a lot of different items and order accordingly. We try to leave room for their giant desserts, which are extraordinary.
My favorite dish is the grilled meat skewers, which are basically meat on skewers, just grilled and seasoned. They go well with the Brazilian sabor morto, which is a kind of sugar or dry hot pepper that is spicy and sharp. The churrasco steak is terrific, and then you can take a variety of other dishes as sides.